502 W. Elm St.

Project Overview

Architect: Unknown         Year Built: 1889       Architectural Style: Queen Anne


Architectural Description

502 W. Elm, known as the Sutton House, is a Queen Anne style house that has been named an Urbana Landmark. The house was built in 1889 by Elizabeth Sutto, the widow of former Urbana Mayor Royal A. Sutton. As any Queen Anne style house, the Sutton house is a very uniquely intricate house. The house is very unique to the area because it is only one of two Queen Anne houses constructed of red brick. The house embodies many of the common Queen Anne characteristics, including an irregular plan, an asymmetrical façade, a variety of roof and window elements, and a large wrap-around porch. Delicate turned spindles and ornate brackets support an intricate frieze on the wrap-around porch. The roof line of the house is a complex and is a combination of intersecting volumes, shapes, and forms. A square tower with a hipped roof is the tallest element of the house. Ornate brackets support the eaves of the square tower. A “cat-slide” roof element, which extends from the apex of the gable roof to near the ground, is prominent on the house. A white decorative wooden band under the cornice divides the roof level from the lower levels of the house. A common characteristic of Queen Anne houses is to provide a varied wall surface that is broken up by protruding bays and differing wall materials. The Sutton house has one two-story square protruding bay on the corner of the house. The triangular portion of the gable roof, near the apex, is covered with a combination of fish scale and diagonal patterned wood shingle work which is painted white. There is also a limestone water table, or horizontal ledge, near the base of the house. These complex wall planes and surfaces make up the overall intricate form of the house. There are a variety of window types on the Sutton House. The majority of the windows are segmental-arched, double-hung windows with arched brick lintels and limestone window sills. There are several square double-hung windows with stained glass inset. There are a few casement windows which also have stained glass inset into the upper sash. Several dormer windows protrude out from the roof line. Although the architect of the house is unknown, the eccentric and intricate design suggests the work of an accomplished architect. The Sutton house’s unique design and high quality materials are an excellent embodiment of the Queen Anne architectural style. Aside from being architecturally significant, the Sutton house is full of rich local history, having several prominent owners after Elizabeth Sutton.

Historical Description

502 W. Elm was built on land that was originally part of Dr. and Mrs. Jacob Snyder's estate, located on the northwest corner of Elm and McCullough streets. Dr. Jacob Snyder was a well-to-do early Urbana physician who came to Urbana with his wife and three children in 1850 from Terra Haute, Indiana. From the time the Snyders built the first residence on it, this corner property was continuously occupied by, and associated with, prominent and wealthy Urbana citizens until the 1930's and 1940's, when the buildings that were erected on it after its subdivision, were converted to rentals.

After Dr. Snyder's death in 1862, his widow and children sold the Elm street estate to Clark Robinson Griggs on September 9, 1864. Shortly after the purchase, the Central Illinois Gazette announced: "Mr. S.C.(sic) Griggs is gathering the materials for the erection of a fine residence on the beautiful site formerly occupied by the late Dr. Snider (sic)". The new structure which replaced the former residence was a large, two-story clapboard building located in the center of the estate. Griggs was tremendously influential in the early development of Urbana and is widely credited as being the main force behind the effort to bring the University of Illinios to Urbana-Champaign. Eventually the Griggs moved back east and settled in Delaware. Prior to moving out of Urbana, C.R. Griggs and his wife deeded their Elm Street estate to their daughter and son-in-law, Mrs. and Mr. W.W. Graham, who retained it only for four months. On September 22, 1873, they sold it to Royal A. Sutton.

Royal A. Sutton was born on May 10, 1837 in Romulus, New York. He moved to Champaign, Illinois in 1855, where he worked in his brother Joseph's hardware shop, which he bought out in 1860. In 1862 he married Elizabeth T. Waters, Urbana resident. In 1866 the couple moved to Urbana, and had a son, Frank. In 1867 Royal went into the brick production business. Sutton's brick yards were formerly located immediately north of Urbana and provided bricks for the original buildings of the University of Illinois, as well as for the Urbana gas works buildings. An article in the April 19, 1871 Champaign County Gazette referred to him as the "Brick King of Champaign County".

In September, 1873 they purchased the Griggs estate and moved into the former Griggs residence. Shortly after this, in April 1874, Royal Sutton was elected Mayor of Urbana (Champaign County Gazette, April 29, 1874), in which position he served one term. Royal Sutton died on April 17, 1881 at the age of 44, after a long illness.  In May 1889, Elizabeth Sutton and her two children subdivided the family estate into four lots. Mrs. Sutton retained the easternmost lot (Lot 1) of her subdivision, on which she had a brick mansion constructed. The Sutton mansion is one of two remaining brick Queen Anne residences in Urbana, and is likely made from bricks produced at the Sutton-Sheldon brickyards which were operated by Mrs. Sutton's brother-in-law, C.C. Sheldon, following her husband's death. In May 1894, Elizabeth Sutton moved to Paterson, New Jersey to live with her daughter Addie and new son-in-law Hugo. After the Suttons moved out of their residence at 502 West Elm Street, it was rented to C.N. Clark who operated a marble and granite works in Urbana. The Suttons sold the property to Mrs. Grace Bills in September 1895. The 1948 city directory designates this property as a student house, and in the 1949 directory nine occupants are listed at this address. Currently, 502 West Elm Street still functions as an apartment building.

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Created on: Monday, April 16, 2012 - 15:37
- Author - admin
- Contributors: KevinG